Correct, correct, correct…
At Callan, we always correct students on the mistakes in their pronunciation, intonation and grammar. Sometimes, students may be frustrated by their teachers’ interruptions; however most Callan students appreciate that the best way to learn a language is to be corrected, no matter how pedantic it might seem.
It’s the only way one can improve – to be told which mistakes one is making, so one doesn’t continue to make them.
Etymologically, the word ‘pedant’ is believed to derive from the first element of the Latin paedogogus, which of course means ‘teacher’. So teachers are quite literally pedants – especially if they’re very strict!
A major synonym for ‘pedant’ is ‘stickler’. A stickler is ‘a person who insists on a certain quality or type of behaviour’ (according to the Oxford English Dictionary). Sticklers demand that everything be done according to prescribed rules. They have no interest in innovation or deviation from the standard, and take exception at wanton transgressions or errors. Note that there is no verb ‘to stickle’; it is used purely as a noun (and a pejorative one at that).
The slight difference between the two nouns is that pedants excessively concern themselves with minor details or rules, rather than the observance of rules in general, which is the domain of the stickler.
This raises an interesting question. Should teachers be so insistent on drilling (frequently obscure) linguistic regulations into their students? Isn’t the most important thing to communicate meaning, regardless of etiquette?
English teachers have a responsibility to ensure their students receive the best possible schooling. Students need to know how to construct tenses, whether to use ‘less’ or ‘few’, ‘many’ and ‘much’, and so on.
Therefore a good teacher should first teach you the rules thoroughly, make sure you are comfortable with them and then – step by step, slowly – tell you if and when they can be broken if the occasion or need arises.
This may seem antithetical to the ethos of learning: why would you break a rule you have been taught? This way madness lies, surely?
The truth is that language is constantly evolving, and expressions which were deemed ungrammatical a few decades ago are perfectly acceptable now. Teachers should strive to ensure students are aware of contemporary English usage to avoid embarrassing mistakes in social situations.
wanton – deliberate and unprovoked (‘it was an act of wanton violence’)
pejorative – expressing contempt or disapproval (‘You know, ‘pedant’ is a pejorative term’)
took issue – to have a problem with something or someone (‘I take issue with your swearing and filthy jokes’)
slip(s) – mistakes, faults (‘you made a bit of a slip then when you called that woman “Sir”’)
antithetical – directly opposed or contrasted; mutually incompatible (‘your beliefs about religion are antithetical to mine’)